Beginning Beagle Basketball

Ok.  This is where it all starts.  I'm going to guide you step by step on Boston Celtics Basketball.  This is intended not only for the "causal fan" who knows some things, but also for those who have no clue why the silly people with shorts are bouncing that orange ball up and down.  There will be descriptions, pictures, graphics, and a final exam.  (ok, no final)

How it All Started

Basketball was invented in 1891 by Dr. James Naismith.  At that time, he was a teacher in Springfield, Massachusetts.  It was winter in New England, and he was temporarily placed in charge of a group of students who needed some type of constructive athletic exercise.  Several of these "students" were 18 or slightly older, and all of them were pretty big.  So Dr. Naismith, after watching them break each others bones on various other indoor games, decided to develop a new game, designed to be played indoors, which would do everything to eliminate physical contact.  Yes, basketball was originally designed as a non-contact sport.

He wrote up the original rules in a single day, got one of the maintenence men to hang two peach baskets, and just as the students came in, he finished writing, and explained the new game to them.

The game was intended to be used in schools, and for many years, it was.  There were several attempts to launch a professional basketball league before we ended up with today's NBA.  But that's another story for another time.  The idea here is to give you a very general background so you can then learn the game itself.

The Game

The idea of the game remains very simple.  Two teams play five players on the court for 4 quarters of 12 minutes each (plus overtime, if needed).  The object is to put the basketball into the hoop, while keeping the opposing team from doing the same.

The Basketball

This is a regulation NBA Basketball.  The official rules state that it must be inflated to a pressure between 7 1/2 and 8 1/2 lbs. pressure.

Getting started

If you click on this link,  you will open a separate window, where you will see two graphics that will help you understand what I'm talking about.  The first will be a representation of a standard NBA court, the second, a more detailed graphic of the Celtics home court at the Fleet Center.  You might want to keep that window open as you read this for reference.

There's a bunch of lines, areas, circles, and other things that I'll describe to you.  I'll be referring you back to this graphic periodically, as well as giving you other cool pictures to look at while we go along.

The boundary/out of bounds lines/baseline & sideline
The boundary, or out of bounds line is the white rectangle line that runs around the entire court.  If a player with the ball steps on the line, or crosses over it making contact with the floor, the ball is out of bounds, and the ball goes to the other team.  At either end of the court this is called the baseline.  Lengthwise, it's called the sideline.

Scorer's area, player's box
The area in front of the scorer's table at center court is where players wait to be allowed into the game when a substitution is made.  The coach tells you to go there, where you report to the scorer.  The next time the ball is not in play (a "dead ball") the referee will motion for you to come onto the court and replace whichever player you're substituted for.

Center Court/Halfcourt
The Celtics logo is at Center Court.  This is where the players start every game, and every overtime period.  There are other occasions when this happens, but it's not common.  It's called a "jump ball", so named because the Lead Official (or "referee", as he or she is normally referred to) throws the ball (hopefully) straight up in the air.  Each team has a "Center" who will normally be the one trying to get the ball after the referee tosses it up.  The line running through the logo is called the center or halfcourt line.  When a team gains posession of the ball after the other team scores, (or misses and the other team gets to the ball first), they have 8 seconds to get the ball past halfcourt.  You can't then take the ball back past that line, or a "turnover" is called, and the other team gets the ball.

The Backboard and Basket
On either end of the court is a backboard (often referred to as "the boards", "the glass", etc.) and a basket (or "hoop", "net").  On the first graphic above, the hoop is the small black circle; while the backboard is the black line behind it.  On the second graphic, they're more easily recognizable.  The reason you'll hear the backboard referred to as the "boards" is they used to be made of wood.  This was later changed to transparant material for several reasons--safety, view from the seats behind the backboard, etc.  Needless to say, the peach "baskets" have long since been replaced with the modern metal rim with a net.

The Free Throw Line
A little further in from the rim is a white circle painted on the floor,  with a line drawn straight through it.  This line is the free throw line, where the player taking the free throw has to stand when he shoots.  The little white "hash marks" on the white rectangle leading from the free throw line to the basket are where the other players stand during a free throw.

The Three Point Line
The big half circle outside the free throw area painted in white is the three point line, also known as the "arc".  The distance from the arc to the basket varies.  It's closest point is near the boundary line that runs behind the basket, which is called the "base line".  From there, its 22 feet to the basket.  At the apex--known as the "top of the key", it is 23 feet, 9 inches to the basket.  That's why most players who want to shoot a three point shot try from the corner--it's closer.  The three point shot is relatively new--it was adopted by the NBA in 1979 after the ABA (the American Basketball Association, a former rival league that folded) found it popular with the fans.  The first recorded three point basket was scored by Celtic Player (and later Coach) Chris Ford.  Historically, this fact is overshadowed by the arrival of Larry Bird in the NBA, but today's Celtics players--especially Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker--should remember Chris with gratitude.

The "semicircle"/"halfcircle"
This is a half circle painted on the floor, just slightly in front of the basket.  The purpose of this is to allow referees to guide decisions in situations where an offensive player (on the team with the ball, and often the player who actually has the ball in his possession) collides with one or more defensive players on the other team.  If the defensive player has so much as part of a foot inside this boundary, the foul--assuming it's called at all--should be a defensive foul, since by then, the offensive player is so close to the basket, he can't reasonably avoid contact with a player who gets in his way.  If the defensive player is not in that area and a collision takes place, then the player with the ball should be called for an offensive foul.  In that case, the ball goes to the other team.  There's a lot of subjective reasoning in such plays, and I personally think the concept needs some work.

Here is an example of the semicircle.  You see it beneath the feet of Paul Pierce (Celtics #34 for you newcomers).  Notice the defender in front of him is within the circle.  If he had not backed off and Pierce had hit him, it would have been a defensive, or "blocking" foul on the other team.  Had Pierce caroomed into the defender who is now behind him, it would have been an offensive foul on Pierce.

The "Strong Side/Weak Side" of the court
Picture this.  You are standing on the free throw line, facing the basket.  You look left and right.  Whichever side the basketball is on is the strong side.  The other side is the weak side.  This is because the strength is where the ball is.

The Shot Clock (24 second clock)
This is the gadget that sits atop each backboard, counting down in reverse from 24 to 0 seconds.  Each team has 24 seconds to take a shot (try to throw the ball into the basket) or they commit a "shot clock violation" (also known as a "24 second violation") and the ball goes to the other team.  If you take a shot that doesn't go in, but makes contact with the metal rim (the hoop), the shot clock is reset to 24 and if you can rebound (take posession of after the missed shot) the ball, you get the fresh clock to try again.

If you fail to advance the ball past the Center Court line within the first 8 seconds of the 24 second shot clock, you lose possession of the ball.

This is different from the "game clock" which counts down the overall time each quarter in the game.

The Coach's "Box"
This is the area extending in front of the team bench from the baseline, along the sideline to the hash mark sticking out from the sideline before halfcourt.  The coach can get up, walk around, kneel in prayer, or tear his hair out--as long as he does it in that area.  The Coach cannot approach the scorer's table during the game, and only in certain situations otherwise. Nor is he allowed onto the court, with certain rare exceptions (like breaking up a fight).  A coach can go past the hash mark to relay information to a player, but he better move his butt back fast or get called for a technical foul.  Most coaches can yell loud enough to be heard without going that far.

The Positions, or Who Does What

There are five players per team allowed on the court at a time - a Center, two Forwards, and two Guards.  In practice, the actual players out there may play their positions in a nontraditional way, but that's in the more advanced Beagle Basketball sessions later on.

The Coach
He's the Man In Charge.  He develops the game plan, organizes the players and tells them what to do and when to do it.

The Center
The Center is usually your tallest player.  His main job is to play close to the basket on both ends of the court to get rebounds and block shots from the opposing team.

The Forwards
The two Forwards are primarily part of the team offense, working in tandem with the Center, and assist on defense.

The Guards
The two Guards are responsible for bringing the ball up the court on offense, and setting up the Forwards and Center for opportunities to score a basket.  The Point Guard normally brings the ball up, while the Shooting Guard hangs back as an outside offensive threat.

The Officials (referees)
There are three officials at each NBA game, a chief and two other officials.  The Crew Chief is the one who has final say on all officiating decisions.

The scorers and timekeeper
These people sit at center court on the sideline and take care of the statistics (scoring, etc.), and maintin the shot and game clocks.  Often, the Public Address (PA) Announcer sits here as well.

Now that you have the basics down, you can go to the next section, How It All Works, which will explain how the players actually play the game.

Or, if you prefer, you can go back to the main page and choose another part of the CBW to enjoy!